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Roethels miss payment deadline in oil spill case, court date set

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OGDENSBURG — The octogenarian who agreed to settle an oil spill case with the state of New York for $107,500 has been summoned back to court.

Laurel B. Roethel was unable to come up with a $40,000 payment to the state before a June deadline.

“They threw our settlement deal off the table,” said Laurel Lee Roethel, Mrs. Roethel’s daughter. “They haven’t formally charged her with contempt, but I understand she has a court date Nov. 5.”

Ms. Roethel said the family had few options for raising the funds by the deadline.

“She has life use of her house, so we can’t mortgage that,” she said. “The property here on Ford Street, I don’t have a letter from the state saying it is clean, so I can’t mortgage that until I get the letter.”

Mrs. Roethel was required to pay for a cleanup of contamination found by the state Department of Economic Conservation on her 1801 Ford St. property.

In April 1988, two neighboring landowners, Donald H. Forsythe and Frederick S. Wilder, found oil on their property believed to have been left by a former Chevron gas station and an auto parts store on the site. Mr. Forsythe and Mr. Wilder were business partners dealing in real estate and insurance.

DEC cleaned up the property using $374,153.90 from the state’s oil spill fund.

In 2006, the state attorney general’s office sued Mrs. Roethel, Mr. Forsythe and Mr. Wilder to recover the cost of the cleanup, alleging that they were responsible for the contamination.

In May, Mrs. Roethel agreed to settle the case for $107,500. Under the agreement, she had to admit responsibility for the spill, while the gas company was fined $15,000 with no admission of liability. In response, her daughter closed the family’s coac-line business and tapped into her retirement account to raise funds, but the money did not come in fast enough to make the payments.

“Different people have said they want to buy the bus, different things, but until the cash comes in, I can’t send it out, so we’re in contempt right now,” Ms. Roethel said.

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